More Tories joined the revolt on coronavirus curbs today – despite suggestions Commons rules could save Boris Johnson from an humiliating defeat this week.
The PM is struggling to quell growing fury from his own MPs over the restrictions and the lack of parliamentary scrutiny.
There are claims that up to 100 are ready to line up behind an amendment tabled by Conservative backbench chief Sir Graham Brady, which would force ministers to get approval in advance before bringing in more restrictions.
However, in spite of the groundswell of support, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle is not expected to allow a vote on the change.
It is being tagged on to a motion renewing the government’s sweeping coronavirus powers, and normal procedure would be for the House to give a ‘clear’ yes or no decision.
Sir Lindsay has been keen to avoid getting involved in the rows about rule-bending that blighted John Bercow’s final days in the chair.
One senior MP told MailOnline Sir Graham was marching his troops to the top of the hill, but faced having to march them down again.
‘It is a bit of ”Grand Old Duke of York”,’ they said. ‘If you (allow the vote) you are going back to what the previous Speaker did, and you will end up with the courts deciding.
‘If you don’t believe in it you can vote against it – a straightforward vote.’
Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to a school in Ruislip today) is struggling to quell growing fury from his own MPs over Covid restrictions and the lack of parliamentary scrutiny
In spite of the groundswell of support, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle (pictured right last week) is not expected to allow a vote on the amendment
So far around 50 MPs have signed the amendment laid down by Sir Graham, chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 committee, demanding votes before any future curbs on British ‘liberty’ are brought in.
But ringleaders claim the true figure could be closer to 100.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats are set to back the amendment, saying it is wrong that new laws are being brought in under emergency powers passed at the start of the pandemic.
That would potentially be enough to overturn the government’s 80-strong majority – with signs that DUP MPs are also set to endorse the change.
A final decision on whether to call the amendment will not be made before Wednesday.
The revolt comes amid rumours of a growing rift between Mr Johnson and his Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, over the economic impact of coronavirus restrictions.
In more worrying signs for the PM today, former minister Simon Clarke – who stepped down earlier this month for personal reasons – has issued a joint statement with other Teeside MPs warning against a ban on households mixing.
They wrote that no more restrictions should be imposed on the area, and pecifically took a swipe at a measure thought to be under serious consideration by the government.
‘A ban on household mixing as winter approaches would in practice condemn thousands of local people to loneliness and isolation – even with mitigating measures in place,’ the statement said.
Yesterday, employers’ group the Confederation of British Industry called upon the Prime Minister to reopen the economy ‘as quickly as we can’.
It comes amid growing anger over Mr Johnson’s continued use of emergency powers to get restrictive Covid-19 laws through the Commons.
Mr Bercow warned him against sidelining Parliament by pushing through laws without a vote or debate.
And Tory MP Steve Baker, who plans to rebel against Mr Johnson if the current Speaker chooses Sir Graham’s amendment for a Commons vote, said Britons were no longer living like free people due to the restrictions.
More than 50 MPs have signed an amendment laid down by Sir Graham Brady (pictured), chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 committee
‘We are in an environment where you really can’t know whether you’re a criminal or not with this much law coming into force and changing so fast, and that is why I’ve said this is not a fit environment for free people,’ he said.
‘How do people think that liberty dies? It dies like this with government exercising draconian powers, without parliamentary scrutiny in advance.’
The ex-minister told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: ‘MPs should be sharing in the dreadful burden of decision in these circumstances and not just retrospectively being asked to approve what the Government has done.’
He said there were ‘plenty’ of MPs who would back the amendment, and that he thought it would be selected by Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
But Downing Street is equally adamant that the vote will not be called, leaving rebels with only the nuclear option of voting against the Government’s Covid-19 legislation, something they do not think the rebels will do.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has written to MPs urging them not to vote for Sir Graham’s amendment if it is called, however.
Tory MP Steve Baker (pictured), who plans to rebel against Mr Johnson said Britons were no longer living like free people due to the restrictions
He wrote: ‘I believe that the case for keeping these provisions remains strong… they are absolutely necessary to enable governments across the UK to mount an effective response.’
Labour said it is likely to back the amendment if called, shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said.
‘We have some sympathy with the amendment that Graham Brady has tabled but we want to see something that sets out what our amendment sets out, which is more transparency and publishing the data,’ she told Sky News.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey also signalled he would vote for it.
Mr Bercow told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend: ‘Parliament has been unavoidably constrained by Covid-19 but it should not now avoidably constrain or hamper itself.
‘Debate, scrutiny and votes are the lifeblood of a pluralist system.’
On Saturday, about 15,000 demonstrators turned up to an anti-lockdown protest in central London.